Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

by Natasha Kasbekar

If you have a little camper or preschooler at home, chances are you have recently heard about hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD). While the term may sound scary, HFMD is a common viral illness. It is most common in kids under age 5 years, and more common in the summer. It is usually caused by a type of virus called coxsackievirus, which is in the larger family of enteroviruses. Initial symptoms include fever, feeling tired or sick, decreased appetite, and sore throat. Small painful blisters can develop in the mouth (usually the back of the mouth), accompanied by small blisters or red spots on the body. The illness gets its name based on the fact that the rash is frequently found on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, though it can also appear in other areas of the body. Like other viruses, the illness is spread through the air (coughing, sneezing) or through close personal contact. The incubation period is about 3-6 days from the time of exposure to symptoms. The child is most contagious when a fever and blistering rash is present. There is no specific treatment for HFMD. Severe complications are extremely rare. Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be used for fever or mouth pain. This is generally enough and the illness resolves on its own. In some severe cases dehydration can be a concern if the child is unable to drink enough fluids. Prevention of HFMD includes good hand washing, avoiding close contact with infected individuals, and cleaning/disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.  HFMD is not related to foot-and-mouth disease which is a disease that affects farm animals but cannot be transmitted to humans.

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